Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy, Earl J. Hess, North Carolina University Press, 361 Pages, 28 illustrations, 2 maps, notes, index, bibliography, 2016. $35 hardcover.
Michigan War Studies Review, November 13, 2017, Robert L. Glaze, reviewer states:
This superb study of Braxton Bragg is very aptly subtitled. A punch line of many a joke at conferences and Civil War roundtables, Bragg has fared poorly in both the war's historiography and its popular memory. The conventional image oi the general is of an obtuse, irascible, cold-hearted, and incapable officer who, more than any other Rebel leader, doomed the confederacy. He poisoned relations within the western Confederate high command and stymied the South's war effort on both the strategic and tactical levels. While some of this rings true, the prolific Civil War historian Earl Hess has now given readers a more proficient, nuanced and, indeed, human Braxton Bragg.
To claim that Bragg was the most capable of all the Army of Tennessee's commanders seems like faint praise, but Hess marshals considerable evidence that the general was an excellent administrator, devoted and brave Southern patriot, and skilled tactician. Granted, he lost more battles than he won, but Hess reminds us that he was commander of the army when it reached its organization and tactical apes. Bragg managed to reinvigorate that army after its bloody defeat at Shiloh and led it to 'its most impressive tactical victories'. . on October 8 at Perryville, December 31 at Stones River and September 20 at Chickamauga. (276) Hess backs up his assertions with compelling statistics, noting that Bragg was responsible for 75 percent of the army's tactical successes and only 28.5 percent of its failures. Such numbers lead him to the bold, sure-to-be-controversial, yet reasoned claim that 'the Army of Tennessee was Bragg's Army." (276)
While the general was far from a flawless field commander, Hess argues that his wartime failures were more personal than military. It was, he posits, Bragg's stubborn recalcitrance and poor relations with his subordinates and the Southern press, that more than anything else, damaged his reputation. Like many of the South's generals, he proved to be a poor politician. He rarely courted Southern newspaper editors and proved remarkably clumsy when he tried to. . . . .
Full Text is continues at Michigan War Studies Review, November 13, 2017.